Our dichotomous of ten complex relationship with women begins as children
The connubial bliss and career graphs take different paths for men and women
When I first proposed that I will write on this subject, it was welcomed with usual disbelief and might I add, a bit of derision!
To quell my critics before inking the first dot, I made my first compromise:
I added the “as seen by a man” to get some “ah! That’s better”... to curious “please send it to me when you are done.”
As a child, most of us grew up in the overpowering love and shadow of our mothers - the ‘all knowing, all providing’ goddess of goodness, and our only succor in the scary world. My memories are sketchy. But watching my son at this age provides me a window to what would have been me and many of us men when we were growing up.
I could spend an entire rare Saturday playing, entertaining, allowing all the TV watching and Nintendo playing only to be faced with frequent questions of “what do you think mama is doing now?’, “do you think she is missing us” to constant reminders of “appa, mama does not do like this... try it this way!’ And the final blow “Appa, I can’t wait for Mama to come back”.... this, when they spend an entire life together and I get this rare Saturday with him.
Talk about peer pressure! I wilted, and I wished such rare Saturdays are really rare. Going through the day, attending to his many calls, feeding him, cleaning.... entertaining - imagine doing this every day.
We should recognize motherhood as a profession and stop demeaning them by calling them housewife!
At the same time I watch the boys of around 3 to 9 years deal with girls of the same age. It is an epic battle. From social ostracism, if you are seen talking to girls, to ‘oh! You are a girl’ being the worst insult and reinforcing stereotypes of pink is a girl’s color, Barbie - cheee... and what scared me was... “Stop crying like a girl”. Hey they are not even 10 as yet! They seem to carry the “I hate girls as their war cry”!
Talk of living in two worlds “Mama is my life and I hate girls.” In some ways this defines our relationship as men with women through our lives.
Contrast this with as they grow into their teens and the hormones take over. I hate girls becomes, “ah! I wish she would turn to just give me one look”. At the same time the relationship with the mother changes. From I can’t live without her to I wish she would leave me alone! “Appa, can you get Mama off my back please?”, “Why does she have to clean my room when I am not around?” “Why can’t she respect my privacy and stop checking my text messages!” I cannot tolerate my mum and I love all the girls I can lay my eyes on! Sigh…I am no longer surprised.
Enter college and work, and we slowly learn to co-exist and survive despite surging hormones. But even here, most women suffer violating stares and offensive remarks!
We all eventually grow up, get married, go to work, have children and that is where the comparison ends. Most men get married, get pampered by their mothers-in-law, enjoy connubial bliss, have children and continue with their career. But there is a huge pause for our counterparts, they can’t continue and if they do they die of guilt!
Recently, at a social gathering we had a really difficult child, throwing tantrums, troubling other children. Here is what a few friends had to say. “What else do you expect, she wants a career!
She shouldn’t have had a child if she can’t manage one”. Hey, what about the man who was equally involved and accountable. By the way, children throwing tantrums has nothing to do with their mothers working. It has to do with them being children and happens even when women take time off from work to take care of their children.
I have known colleagues who get up early to get their children ready, drop them in school, go during their lunch break to pick them, drop them home, rush back home in the evening, feed them, entertain them, tuck them into bed and sign back to complete their work! Show me a man who can do this and still stand straight!
And the final piece, family. I noticed a female colleague who was always seen in a pair of jean or pant suddenly only be seen in a salwar kameez or a saree. The office grapevine had it that the mum-in-law was in town! God! Will my equal be seen in dhotis and kurtas?
Being a woman is tough. It is a man’s world, but most women that I work with, know, or meet socially have never complained. Of course there is some of the ‘b’ variety that I haven’t met but there are many of the ‘b’ variety amongst men that I wish I hadn’t met!
But I know without my wife, my mum, 40% women leadership team, and scores of others, my life would not be what it is today…a fulfilling, diverse, enriched and yet demanding passage.
Let us men, commit not just to show passion and kindness but to be egalitarian, compassionate, partake in responsibilities at work and home. Let us celebrate the difference and reap the benefits of a world that is not filled with only men! Imagine what a lousy place this world will be!
With that sanguine thought, here’s to all the women in my life. This column is dedicated to all of you.
Elango R, is the Chief Human Resources Officer at MphasiS. He blogs on www.agastyaelango.wordpress.com and follow him on twitter@agastyasays